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Movie Fact #195 - May 4th, 2021


There is a rule that any film that has a big cast tends to have that one actor who sort of shows himself as an unofficial leader on the production. For the original 1977 film Star Wars, ask anyone who was involved and they'd be sure to tell you it was Alec Guinness who played the wise old Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Harrison Ford recalls, "It was, for me, fascinating to watch Alec Guinness. He was always prepared, always professional, always very kind to the other actors. He had a very clear head about how to serve the story." Lucas also credited Guinness with inspiring the cast and crew to work harder and that he contributed significantly to the completion of the filming. And Guinness can be accredited as one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be successful to the point he negotiated a deal for 2.25% of the one-fifth gross royalties paid to Lucas, which made him quite wealthy in later life. It's hard to believe that almost none of that happened.

Originally, Lucas' plan was to cast "unknowns" which was a decision his friend Francis Ford Coppola did not look on favorably. But when it came to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucas felt the part should be played by an established actor. Producer Gary Kurtz agreed, saying later on, "The Alec Guinness role required a certain stability and gravitas as a character... which meant we needed a very, very strong character actor to play that part." But given that Jedi were deeply inspired by the samurai myth, originally Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune (who starred in many Akira Kurosawa films) was considered for the role. In fact, according to Mifune's daughter, Mika Kitagawa, her father turned down Lucas' offers for both Kenobi and Darth Vader. This was because, in her words, "he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai... At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride." It was then that Guinness who was cast, agreeing to take the part of Kenobi on the condition that he would not have to do any publicity to promote the film. Despite this, he became synonymous with the part, but his clear instinct paid off not just for him but Lucas and the rest of the production who feared they were about to make a disaster. The Force was indeed strong with Guinness. May the 4th be with you all! Stay tuned!

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